City Quotient: A Historic Baptist Headquarters and Downtown Bees

A brief history of the Ohio Baptist General Association, and the Hilton Downtown Columbus’ quest for an apiary

Jeff Darbee
Illustration of 48 Parkwood Ave.

On Parkwood Avenue just north of East Broad Street there’s a house with a small sign referring to a Baptist church association. The house looks empty. Was it a church at one time?

Baptist, yes; church, no. The house at 48 Parkwood Ave. was built in 1906 by Jeremiah Foley. He was a successful building contractor, so it’s no surprise that his home had more details and decoration than most others, especially its multicolored brick and colorful tile porch floor. The building stayed a residence until 1954, when the Ohio Baptist General Association bought it for a new office/headquarters. It had a hall of fame recognizing members’ achievements, and in the basement there was a small chapel. 

Columbus has a long history of African American abolitionist churches, including Second Baptist Church, which was established in 1839 when its members split off from the white First Baptist. In 1858, Second Baptist merged with the Anti-Slavery Baptist Church, which dated from 1847. The Rev. James Poindexter, pastor at the Anti-Slavery Church, became pastor of Second Baptist and served until 1898. Shiloh Baptist at 720 Mount Vernon Ave. is a later 19th century descendant of Second Baptist. These churches were among the 30 around the state that formed the OBGA in 1896 and remain members today along with 13 other Columbus churches. 

The association offered strength in numbers on issues such as civil rights, economic opportunity and racial discrimination. The OBGA moved to new quarters in 1996, and its Parkwood home has remained vacant. It has now been sold for renovation, and its historical importance has been recognized by a listing in the National Register of Historic Places. 

Is it true that a colony of bees lives on the roof of the Hilton Columbus Downtown?

Readers might recall that CQ wrote about the bees living on the grounds of the Statehouse in the October 2015 issue of Columbus Monthly (they’re still there). It turns out that they were not alone in responding to all the buzz about Downtown living. 

When the new Hilton opened in October 2012 across from the Greater Columbus Convention Center, a beehive was indeed put up on the roof. Why? Well, protecting and promoting pollinators is important, of course, but there was a more immediate practical reason—to create a source of fresh honey for the hotel chef’s use. Since this was in the late fall, winter came on sooner rather than later, and, unfortunately, the colony did not survive into the next spring. 

The Hilton did not give up, however. A new colony was installed in 2013 with a hardier strain of bees. Still no luck, though, as that winter also proved fatal. Since then, no bees have taken up residence on the hotel roof. The Hilton is looking into the best way to proceed, but there are no current plans to try again. A possible answer: a bee called the Carnolian Apis mellifera carnica from the region around Austria and Slovenia. It’s darker in color than some bees (maybe to absorb heat better?) and it’s “gentle and shows some resistance to pests.” To quote the old saw, maybe the third time’s a charm. 

Jeff Darbee is a preservationist, historian and author in Columbus. Send your questions to cityquotient@columbusmonthly.com, and the answer might appear in a future column. 

Sources: OBGA Headquarters National Register nomination form; Julia Hansen, director of sales and marketing, Hilton Columbus Downtown; modernfarmer.com